Michaelangelo Rodriguez’s Delaware Shore, from Avacado media, is a novel of family drama that spans World War II, to Slaughter Beach, to the modern opioid epidemic, all while keeping the pace tight, and the realism gritty. Rodriguez is an author and filmmaker, and a writer of various novels; Delaware Shore is currently being made into an independent film.
Agnes, the maternal head of the family, survived the holocaust, and in the first section is plunged back into the past by her neighbor, Nivek. The encounter forces Agnes to relive and recall the old loves and lives that brought her across the Atlantic to Delaware. And if Agnes is the harried, and crazy, and sometimes pistol-toting heroine of the novel, then Tasha and Gallagher, the twins abandoned by their parents, are the novels head and heart.
Shore is loaded full of colorful characters, menacing strangers, hot strippers, rogue sailors, and Tasha and Gallagher maneuver their world, trying to figure out where they fall in it. Gallagher experiments with his sexuality and parties with the drag queen crowd, while Tasha falls in love with JJ, whom Agnes cannot stand. Wanting to be a writer, Tasha is the ever moving heroine. She thinks she makes smart decisions, but trips over her own feet, and proves to be her worst enemy. Agnes is not the most loveable aunt in the world, for at times she is downright hateful, but she is nothing compared to Rodriguez’ Coco Man, a psychopathic and terrifying supernatural figure who haunts Tasha and her stripper friend, Mystic, in a series of hallucinogenic chapters in the novel’s third act. Coco Man represents our fears, and death, but he is also a kind of embodiment of caution. A boogie man drummed up to children to make them behave.
The novel is well paced, and written in short manageable chapters, and the dialogue is realistic without being preachy. There’s a real moral drama playing out here, and Rodriguez does not allow his characters to cop out.